Climbing & Creatures – a Photographic Look at Red River Gorge in Kentucky

Marking our official return to the southeast after eight months of exploring the crags of the west, our three weeks spent at Red River Gorge in Kentucky easily surpassed any expectations I had. Niko and I have climbed there before, but we’ve never found ourselves so fully immersed in the community, culture, and climbing found at this humid gorge. I was ready for the incredible overhanging climbs littered with jugs and sandstone features, but I wasn’t quite prepared to find myself growing to love a family of climbers who call Miguel’s Pizza shop (and dirtbag campground) home.

Leaving here was a bit harder than I expected, and saying goodbye to all the pups and people was a bit heartbreaking. The folks we connected with at The Red are so full of love and instantly welcomed us into the community. Niko already has plans to come back in November – so we won’t be missing Red River Gorge for too long.

Because words can’t really describe the past three weeks spent climbing and living at Red River Gorge, I’ll let the photos do the talking. (Spoiler alert: In true Katie fashion, I picked up a lot of creatures, and naturally took their portraits.) Enjoy:

Projecting the classic climb Hippocrite (5.12a) at The Zoo in Red River Gorge.Taking a fall on the classic climb Hippocrite (5.12a) at The Zoo in Red River Gorge.View from the top of Pistol Ridge in Indian Creek at Red River Gorge.Rocks.Steven Jeffery on Scar Tissue (5.12a) at The Zoo in Red River Gorge.King Rat Snake at Red River Gorge.Camp life and pumpkin spice lattes at Red River Gorge.One of my favorite routes of all time, Plate Tectonics in Muir Valley at Red River Gorge.This little toad was a stowaway in our rope bag at Muir Valley in Red River Gorge.Niko's project at the Mother Lode crag in Red River Gorge, Stained.
Yeah, something tells me it won’t be too long before we make our return to Red River Gorge.

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Home, Sweet Home: A Return to the Southeast at Red River Gorge

Home, Sweet Home: A Return to the Southeast at Red River GorgeRight now, I’m sitting outside to write, and the air in my lungs is so thick I could drink it. Everything smells like wet grass, and the scenery surrounding my picnic table consists of rolling hills carpeted with trees, old wooden crates stacked with empty Ale-8 bottles, and folks milling about while saying things like “thank you ma’am,” and “pleased to meet ya.” For dinner, we’re cooking black eyed peas and collard greens – and all of this can only mean one thing:

I’m back home – in the southeast.

We drove 20+ hours from Colorado to get to Kentucky, and every moment since our arrival at Red River Gorge has been a whirlwind of me thinking “man, I am so happy to be back in the south.” Climbers here always say hello at the crag (unheard of in Colorado, yeah, I’m calling you out on that), people speak with slow drawls at the grocery store, and I can finally ask for corn nuggets at a restaurant without getting funny looks.  To say I am content would be an understatement – I am elated, overjoyed, impossibly satisfied with where I am at this very moment.

The Red River Gorge is a particularly special place for climbers. We were torn between here and Tennessee as our official “return to the south” destinations, but I’m glad we chose Kentucky. This picnic table I’m writing from is situated under a pavilion at Miguel’s – a legendary pizza and camping spot where climbers from around the world gather. In the parking lot, there are cars from Oregon, California, Tennessee, New York, Washington, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Florida.

When I haven’t been inhaling fat slices of Miguel’s pizza or chasing pups around the campground, I’ve been reintroducing myself to the stone that sparked my love for climbing: southern sandstone. Oh how I missed these exquisitely exposed chunks of pristinely composed sediment, all spritely colored and begging to be gripped. Even when I’m on the verge of tears trying to will my body to move up to the next bolt, my love for this sandstone is unwavering. Southern sandstone is just the best damn rock in the world.

Niko crushing Scar Tissue (5.12a) at The Zoo in Red River Gorge, Kentucky.We’ve spent the past few days revisiting familiar crags and climbing new lines with old friends. My first climb of the trip was at the wall in Muir Valley where I first climbed at Red River Gorge a few years ago – it truly felt like a homecoming. The last time I was attached to a rope on that wall, I was trembling, shaking, hysterically crying on my first big-girl lead climb (I still flashed the route, which almost makes the scene even more shameful). This time, I pulled on the holds with confidence, I clipped the bolts with ease, and not a single tear was shed. It felt good.

As usual, Niko has been crushing and his psyche is sky-high as he climbs old projects and explores new lines. It was great to watch him work Scar Tissue (5.12a) and relive the memories of our last trip out here in May 2012.

Niko and I have been saying the same thing for the past seven months since we left the southeast, and now that we’re back after touring the country, it rings as loudly as ever: We belong in the southeast, and there is nowhere else we’d rather be. 

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A Comprehensive Guide to Climbing Shoes

A Guide to the Best Climbing ShoesIf you really want to get to know your climbing shoes, take them on a yearlong climbing trip – at least, that’s what Niko and I did. From splitter cracks in Indian Creek to overhung bouldering at Joe’s Valley, we’ve tested our climbing shoes on gritty sandstone, polished granite, greasy limestone, and everything in between.

After wearing through countless pairs of climbing shoes and borrowing shoes from the friends we’ve met at crags along our adventures, we’ve tested and reviewed the best models to help you achieve a send. I’ve always been a believer in the philosophy that shoes don’t make a send, the climber does – but after doing things like trying to send a slab in my super downturned shoes, I’ve changed my tune. Wearing the right climbing shoe can be essential to a successful climb.

We based these climbing shoe reviews on our personal experiences with each shoe, the overall feedback we received from folks out at crags across the country, and our time spent helping climbers choose shoes while Niko worked at Tallahassee Rock Gym.

Overall Best Climbing Shoe | Anasazi, Five Ten

Best Overall Climbing Shoe: Five Ten's AnasaziIf there is one shoe that I have never heard a single negative remark about, it’s the Five Ten Anasazi. Whether you’re a beginner flailing on V2s or a lifelong crusher battling a V13 project, the Anasazi is a reliable shoe that can accomplish nearly any task thrown its way. This velcro shoe features Stealth Onyx Rubber and stiff sole, making them ideal for fancy footwork on tiny holds. Anasazis are known best for their incredible edging abilities, and superior handling on technical climbs – and they are comfortable to boot.

The true test for the Anasazi came for Niko and I during our trip to Squamish. This Canadian wonderland is one of the only world‐class destinations where you can get a taste of bouldering, trad, and sport climbing all in a single day – and no other shoe is as well‐rounded as the Anasazi for tagging along each of these excursions. Heel hooking on an overhung boulder? No problem. Smearing up a slab? Sure thing! Jamming into a crack? Perfect. And that is why the Five Ten Anasazi is the best overall shoe for any climbing adventure.

Pros: Comfortable, reliable, and functional for any style of climbing.
Cons: None. Seriously. I’d love to hear from anyone who has any downsides about these shoes.

Aggressive Bouldering | Testarossas, La Sportiva

Our favorite aggressive climbing shoe: La Sportiva Testarossas.When deciding on the best shoe for bouldering, Niko and I had a lot of contenders to consider. There was the ever‐popular La Sportiva Solution, my beloved Katanas, the Five Ten Dragons, and the Team 5.10s. Admittedly, I still have little girl dreams about my first pair of Dragons, but there is one shoe that has earned the title of the best pick for aggressive climbs: La Sportiva Testarossas.

These shoes feature bi‐lateral stretch technology. (Read: it combines non‐stretching Lorica with stretchable leather in a strategic way to help them break in perfectly in all the right places.) It also boasts sticky Vibram rubber, which achieves a balance of gummy comfort and reliable stiffness. Furthermore, these are one of the most durable shoes I’ve owned. I’ve had mine for well over a year, and they are still in great condition.

Niko and I both have a pair, and these shoes are usually the first things we reach for during a bouldering session. I bought mine used, so they were already broken in. Niko has purchased two pairs over the past year, and he experiences the same thing that I love about the Testarossas: their unbelievable form‐fitting suction effect. You slide these shoes on, and suddenly, they become your foot – a taloned, rubbery, perfectly downturned extension of your body.

Pros: Impressive downturn, form‐fitting, durable.
Cons: Expensive. At $175 a pair, these shoes are definitely an investment.

Crack / Trad: Moccasyms, Five Ten (and super/mini)

Best crack and trad climbing shoe: Moccasyms by Five Ten.Entering the world of crack climbing was a whole new experience that I got thrown into head first when I went to Indian Creek for the first time. The first thing you’ll learn about climbing crack (or any trad, really), is that you are going to need some comfortable shoes. Anything downturned is an automatic no‐go. Our praises for the Moccasyms aren’t just for the popular red slippers that notoriously stain your toes a bloody hue; we also have big love for the Supermocc (which is unfortunately no longer made), and I have two pairs of Mini Mocs, because yes, I totally fit into children’s climbing shoes.

What makes the Moccasyms stand out as a superb crack shoe is their comfortable slipper style. Laces or velcro may not seem like a problematic choice for crack shoes, but it won’t take long before the laces are frayed, and velcro straps start getting snagged and undone in jams.  Moccasyms don’t fall apart, work with your feet as you contort into tight jams, and provide your toes with comfortable security on the rock.

Pros: Comfortable for jamming, Stealth C4 rubber, great smearing.
Cons: They turn your feet red, not the best for heel hooking.

Best First Shoe | Defy, Evolv

Best climbing shoe for beginners: Evolv Defys.While climbing is known for its community of broke dirtbags, getting started in this sport can be a pretty expensive investment. Between a rock gym membership, chalk bag, harness, and new shoes, novice climbers can end up spending a pretty penny. When it comes to choosing your first shoe, some climbers feel pressured to dive straight into the deep end, but we always advise beginners to invest in a pair of Evolv Defys. Costing less than $100, these shoes are the perfect choice for someone who wants to get into rock climbing but can’t commit to expensive equipment.

My first pair of climbing shoes were Evolvs, and they really took a beating. When you start getting into the lifestyle, it consumes you – I was climbing nearly every single day. While learning new techniques, how to hold your body, and how to use your feet to climb efficiently, you are bound to abuse your climbing shoes. The Defy is a comfortable shoe that helps you get used to the tight‐fitting style of climbing shoes while providing beginners with the perfect stepping stone from rental shoes to style‐specific footwear. We sell more Evolv Defys at Tallahassee Rock Gym than any other shoe.

Pros: Affordable, comfortable, and excellent for beginners.
Cons: Not particularly appealing for anyone besides new climbers.

Lady Beta | Katana, La Sportiva

Best climbing shoe for the ladies? La Sportiva Katanas!It didn’t quite make the cut for the best bouldering shoe, but the La Sportiva Katanas deserve a huge shout‐out for being one of the best shoes for women. They were my first pair of “big girl” shoes once I started getting serious about climbing four years ago, and I have loved them ever since. I was inspired to purchase them by an older lady friend who swore by them, and have since convinced numerous women to join the Katana party –and they all love ‘em.

The lace‐up Katanas feature Vibram XS grip, lasting downturn, and soft yet firm heel cups. They strike a unique balance between being an aggressive, performance specific shoe and all‐around option. I keep my old pair around as my warm‐up casual shoe, and my new Katanas join me for every bouldering and sport climbing adventure I embark on. I still remember flailing on the heel hook intensive Kill By Numbers (V5) at Joe’s Valley, until I put on my Katanas and got the send!

Pros: Great downturn, precise heel hooking, break in very well.
Cons: Expensive.

 There you have it – a guide to the best climbing shoes for any lifestyle. Whether you’re into taping up and jamming your body into cracks, smearing your way up a slab, or pebble pushin’ on a boulder, there’s a climbing shoe designed specifically to help you crush. Climbing on a budget? No worries – check The Clymb for deals on climbing shoes (and gear)! We’ve seen huge discounts on brands like Five Ten, Evolv, Scarpa, and more. What’s your favorite climbing shoe, and why? 

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His or Hers? A Battle of the Climbing Photographers

Niko and I are constantly engaged in war – an ongoing battle between our climbing photographs. If I take a particularly impressive shot, he’ll quickly snag the camera and one-up me with an even better composition. When he finds the perfect lighting, I’m quick to steal the Nikon to shoot some photos of my own. Our little feud has become the best tool to pushing us to get the best climbing photos we can – but we can never decide who took to the better shot, so we’re asking you to help us decide.

Check out these two climbing photos, and choose your favorite (*click the photos for the full-sized view). Leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post letting us know which one you prefer. We’ll reveal who shot which photo once the votes are tallied and a winner is chosen!

These two photos were both taken at Indian Creek in Utah. We spent three weeks living in the desert, and snapped some of our best climbing photos of all time while we were out climbing sandstone cracks in the sunshine. There were dozens of photos that blew us away, including a few I shot of the fellas climbing Scarface while a thunderstorm rolled in – but these two are our favorites:

1. Jeremy Rush with a desperate face-press on Incredible Hand Crack (5.10c).

Jeremy Rush using everything he has on Incredible Hand Crack (5.10c) at Indian Creek in Utah.

2. Bryan Cox illuminated on Anunnaki (5.12).

Bryan Cox crushing Anunnaki (5.12) at Indian Creek in Utah.

There can only be one winner, and the choice is up to you. We’re pretty competitive with this idea, so we reckon it’ll become a series of photo contests – and the loser has to buy the winner a sweet treat of their choice. Glory and the promise of a free snack, it’s on!

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It’s finally here: a new Simply Adventure bouldering video, “Western Sandstone”

About 8 months ago, Niko and I made our first attempt at creating a climbing video. Armed with a homemade steady cam and as much patience as we could muster, we created this video about one of my all-time favorite boulder problems, Super Mario at Stone Fort in Tennessee. It wasn’t bad, but we quickly realized how much we had to learn about the process of putting together a quality video.

Fast-forward a bit, and Niko was determined to capture our experience climbing the stunning red rocks of the west. He lugged the tri-pod out to boulder fields, made me climb the same moves dozens of times to get the perfect shot, and slaved over the editing for weeks. We shot our favorite climbs at Joe’s Valley, Kraft Boulders in Red Rocks, and Moe’s Valley.

Note: Do yourself a favor, and watch this in HD at full-screen size to get the full effect! 

Without further adieu, enjoy:

For me, the best part of the video is the scene with me climbing Kill By Numbers. Not because I look pretty bad ass, but because of the story behind the climb. I had spent the better part of a week focusing on nothing but sending that rig. It tortured me, haunted me, destroyed my hamstrings, and beat me into a pulp. One morning, after two days of rest, I returned to the boulder determined to send it. Niko sat poised ready to film, and on my ‘warm-up’ attempt, I told him he should just start getting footage since I never wanted to climb that line again after the send. And then I day-flashed it. (And it’s all on film!)

I hope you all enjoy the video, and can’t wait to get to work editing new stuff to share with y’all. Let me know your thoughts, what you’d like to see more of, what we can improve on, etc. Thanks for the continuous love and support!

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Climbing, camping, and coffee hour at Indian Creek

We first came to Indian creek on what can only be described as a whim. Jeremy, who we met in Joe’s Valley, egged us on for a few days about his yearning to make the short drive out to Moab to climb at Indian Creek. We easily relented, stuffed our crash pads into Vikki and Spenser’s trailer for the weekend, and caravanned to Indian Creek with newfound friends Jeremy and CP, Cox from Tallahassee Rock Gym, and Lauren, who I knew from Vertical Ventures in Tampa.

The original Indian Creek group gathering for a crew shot after climbing Wavy Gravy.

During my first two days at Indian Creek, I climbed a total of two routes (both on top-rope) – but I was totally exhausted after just two experiences shoving my body into perfectly formed sandstone cracks. I on-sighted Twin Cracks (5.9), and had a fantastic flail session on Wavy Gravy near the ultra-classic Scarface line. Niko continued to practice trad leading, and CP discovered that his hands are a perfect fit for lines that use a lot of number three cams.

CP crushing at Indian Creek in Utah.Me climbing Wavy Gravy in Indian Creek.We camped at Bridger Jack, and adopted a morning routine that involved a lazy “coffee hour.” With a small total of six cracks conquered during our weekend trip, we all decided to spend at least another week in Indian Creek to get the full experience. Niko and I returned to Joe’s Valley one last time to pick up our crash pads, then quickly resettled in Indian Creek – at a new campsite, which didn’t involve a heinous off-road scramble like the path to Bridger Jack.

The first night was rainy, and the next day’s forecast predicted an even higher chance of continuing storms. It didn’t look too promising, so we spent the morning slowly waking up and making coffee at camp.

The weather finally let up, so we decided to scope out the cliffs around Generic Crack to see if they had dried. They had indeed gotten some sun, and by 3:00, the Super Crack parking lot was starting to fill up with climbers.Niko hanging out beneath a climb at Indian Creek.Jeremy Rush killin' it in Indian Creek.

I stayed behind to catch up on writing for the day, and while I was lurking in the van I noticed – more than twice – non-climbers who were driving past, pumping the brakes, reversing into the parking lot, and pausing to admire the climbers while taking pictures and gawking through binoculars. It was a great little moment watching how intriguing climbing appears to be to the outside world – I wonder how unusual people think must we are, hanging onto the side of cracks along the scenic road to The Needles in Canyonlands National Park.

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The best problem at Joe’s Valley – that you’d probably never climbed – Cobra Con

Me on my new favorite problem in Joe's Valley, Cobra Con. For weeks, Steven Jeffrey kept name-dropping a V4 he was convinced I’d love. Initially, I thought he was just conning me into another supposed V-easy that’s really a V-hard (it’s happened before) – but he was right. This particular problem is called Cobra Con, and Steven was right: I love it. 

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Cobra Con is the best damn boulder problem in Joe’s Valley – at least of the V4 variety. Really, it’s that good.

If Cobra Con sat roadside like so many of the boulders in Joe’s Valley, I can guarantee it would constantly be swarmed with a flock of climbers. Strong folks would warm-up on it every day, and moderate climbers would aspire to become strong enough to send it. It would be slicked with shoe rubber, and caked with chalk. But instead, it’s tucked away on a lonesome hillside.

Getting to Cobra Con is no easy task, but thanks to the trails we built up to it, it’s much easier to find now. It is 100% worth the river crossing, uphill trek, and possibility of getting lost while trying to find it. Trust me. Just follow the cairns, edge your way around a big ‘ole boulder blocked by a prickly bush, haul your gear up the big wash, and behold.

You start on two enormous jug underclings, then throw up to the seemingly endless tufa feature that extends for nearly 20 feet of incredible roof climbing. And when you finally reach the end of this snaking sandstone, you’re greeted with a sustained yet totally manageable top-out. It’s everything I could ever ask for in a boulder climb.

Heel hooks, knee bars, no-hands rests – this climb has it all.
Jeremy Rush gets the party started on Cobra Con.

Adriana works the first moves on Cobra Con at Joe's Valley.

CP Santos takes a rest while working up the tufa on Cobra Con.

Adriana works out the top moves on Cobra Con.

Not convinced yet? Drive yourself out to Joe’s Valley, find Steven and Adriana in their sweet old Dolphin RV, and ask them to lead you up the hill to Cobra Con – then climb this route and remember, I told ya so.  

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So, I didn’t go to Indian Creek – but here’s what I did do in Moab (a panoramic perspective)

After all that oh-my-goodness-Indian-Creek hype I built last weekend, I didn’t even end up going there at all while I was in Moab – oops. I guess that’s what I get for posting previews of adventures on the blog. I did however learn some awesome tips for building a tape glove from The Alpine Hack – so it wasn’t a total loss.

The main reason for our jaunt to Moab was to meet up with a few old Tallahassee buddies for a weekend of desert rope climbing. The original destination was Indian Creek, but as word got out about how many folks were planning to take advantage of the weekend’s impeccable conditions, our buddies quickly bailed on the idea of waiting in massive lines to shimmy up a crack. So, we stayed closer to Moab instead.

Before our cohorts arrived, we were able to spend a few days exploring with Beth and Forrest from 3UpAdventures. I have admired their travels (and sweet rigs) for the longest time, so it was great finally being able to meet up with them. I was cooped up at the Lazy Lizard Hostel to host an #ATQA chat when I got a tweet from Beth: “If you want to do a quick hike we can run up Hidden Valley after #ATQA this afternoon. I’m staying right by the trailhead.” Why, yes, yes I did want to do a quick hike!

We met up with Beth, Forrest, and their awesome pup Sprocket, then headed out to towards the trailhead around 4:30. I huffed and puffed my way up a steep and beautiful trail that took us to the top of a ridge where a hidden valley (hence the trail name) opened up to a sprawling area full of petroglyphs, desert fauana, and stunning views. PS: Beth did a great write-up of our hike!

A view of the Hidden Valley trail.
A view from the highest point of our Hidden Valley hike with Beth and Forrest.

Turns out, our “quick little hike” was actually a 7.5 mile excursion with nearly 900 feet of elevation gain. Drained from our outing, our crew headed to the Moab Brewery to refuel on burgers, burritos, and beer. We planned a Jeep adventure for the next day, but Niko and I awoke to rain pattering the roof of our Sprinter – so we decided to head to Arches National Park instead.

Beth gladly joined us for our spontaneous National Park date, and we formulated our day’s plan on the fly with a bit of advice from the park rangers. I hiked Devil’s Garden on my first visit to Arches, so we decided to see something new. Beth had never seen Sand Dune Arch or Broken Arch, so we headed there first. The hike was short and sweet, leaving us with plenty of time to trek out to the iconic Delicate Arch, which I had never visited.

Broken Arch looms from high above Arches National Park in Moab.
The legendary Delicate Arch, perhaps one of the most iconic images of Moab.

After a few days of playing outdoors with Beth and Forrest, our climbing companions finally arrived in Moab, and we set off to tackle some sandstone walls. Our ultimate destination ended up being Wall Street on Potash Road, one of my favorite roadside crags in America. The weekend was full of happenings: Niko led his first trad climbs, I was once again defeated on a stupid-easy slab that wrecked me during my first visit to Moab, and I realized once and for all that I am a boulderer. Niko treats it like a shameful thing, like I’m not a real climber if I don’t prefer rope over bouldering, but I’m a-okay with it. I prefer bouldering. So what!

While I love meeting new people and visiting new places, it was great reuniting with old friends in a familiar place. I was totally at ease the entire weekend, and got to enjoy the company of two ladies – which is a great occasion for a gal who exists mostly among dirtbag men. There was even a funny moment when my friend Lauren announced she was driving up a few miles to go to the bathroom – and even though we didn’t particularly need to go, Jamie and I both jumped in the car with her. I guess girls really do like to pee in packs, ha!

Wall Street on Potash Road, one of the coolest roadside climbing areas of all time.
Niko climbs a mega crack at Wall Street on Potash Road in Moab.
PS: See that tiny lightly-colored dot in the middle of that epic crack? Yeah, that’s Niko. 

After two of our crew left to head back to Salt Lake City, we spent a few more days lounging in the desert backcountry with the remainder of our tribe. Wet weather kept us from doing any more climbing, so we busied ourselves by taking long overdue showers, hanging by a campfire, and drinking wine in the van.

Finally, the time came for Niko and I to return to Joe’s Valley. We’ve only been back a few days, but I am already stoked to crush some new projects. I got surprisingly far on a V7 called “G207,” and am determined to hop back on another V7 in New Joe’s called “Chips.” There are a few more unfinished projects I need to crush, but my main pysche is on the development of new areas spearheaded by Steven Jeffery, who is currently working on a new guidebook. Niko got the first ascent of a V7 which ended up being named Slot Cart, and I snagged a first ascent onsight of a V3 yesterday – which I have yet to come up with a name for. We’ve been bushwacking, crossing freezing rivers, and having a blast helping Steven develop new climbs in Joe’s. Stay tuned for more on that! 

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Gettin’ in over my head: I’m heading to climb cracks in Indian Creek for the weekend!

Here’s a not-so-secret confession: I am not the best rope climber. I’m not quite sure what it is, but as soon as I have a rope tied to my harness and some gear dangling from my hips, my climbing skills degrade severely and my mental stability goes out the window. I am shamefully a pebble-pushing pansy. There, I said it.

My lackluster rope skills are part of the reason why I’m a little intimidated to announce what I’ll be doing this weekend:

I’m going crack climbing in Indian Creek!

The gorgeous landscape at Indian Creek. (Image courtesy of the Chicks Climbing Facebook page.)

The gorgeous landscape at Indian Creek. (Image courtesy of the Chicks Climbing Facebook page – click through to see more!)

Here are a few more confessions: I have never climbed a proper crack outdoors (unless you count a few bouldering cracks I climbed at Boat Rock in Georgia), nor have I ever climbed trad. Basically, I am going to be in way over my head this weekend. I’m totally petrified about my first attempt at hauling my little body up a towering crack – but I know it’s going to be a great learning experience. My hands will be shredded, my footwork will be schooled, and I have no doubts that the fellas will be laughing at me many times throughout the weekend.

Haley Dahle rocking the art of crack climbing at Indian Creek, my hero! (Photo by: Terrell Barry via the ClimbRunLiftMom Facebook page.)

Haley Dahle crack climbing at Indian Creek, my hero! (Photo by: Terrell Barry via the ClimbRunLiftMom FB page.)

Luckily, the lovely Haley Dahle from ClimbRunLiftMom will also be heading to Indian Creek this weekend, so I’m looking forward to meeting up with her and soothing my bruised ego over a campfire accompanied by some whiskey. She is a total fanatic for the impressive crack climbing at Indian Creek, so I’m hoping to soak up some of her expertise and confidence to help me in my pursuit of becoming a crack climber.

For me, this is one of those situations where you really just have to be honest and upfront with yourself about pushing limits and taking things easy. Do I plan on leading a bad ass 5.11 trad crack this weekend? Absolutely not. Will I be 100% satisfied with myself when I top-rope a 5.9 crack for the first time? You better believe it. Sometimes, you have to be okay with taking baby steps – and there is no shame in that.

Frankly, I’ll be beside myself with pride if I even place a single piece of trad gear on my own this weekend. What would be ideal is if I could teleport through time to the Chicks Climbing clinic at Indian Creek on the weekend May 1st, learn a thing or two about the finer techniques behind crack climbing, then return to the present to show hold my own and hang with the big boys. But alas, I’ll just have to wing it.

Have you been climbing at Indian Creek? I’m all ears to any tips, recommended routes, advice on taping my hands, whatever you’ve got to throw my way! 

PS: Since I’ll be deep in the desert until Monday, you should expect me to be totally disconnected this weekend. I’ll catch up on all the comments, tweets, and e-mails after my first crack climbing adventure – and you can look forward to some stories and photos acting as evidence of my inevitable fumbling, faces of terror, and bloody knuckles. While I’m gone, make sure to enter my giveaway for a package of Premier Protein energy bars and shakes!

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New climbing companions, Niko’s first ascent, and deciding to return to Joe’s Valley

Last week, the tribe I had been traveling with for the past few weeks finally disbanded. Our two main companions, Zach and Emily, drove back home to Minnesota, and the rest of the crew headed off to other climbing areas like Bishop and Red Rocks. We had planned to hightail it out to Moab on Friday morning, but ended up forced to stay in town until I sent my nemesis climbing project, Kill By Numbers – and I’m so glad it took me so long to finish that boulder problem.

While moping around the Food Ranch, I happened to meet a charming lady who mentioned working on a blog post. Naturally, I asked what the name of her blog was, and it turned out that she’s half of the two-climber team that runs The RV Project. I told them we were planning to head out of town the next morning after sending Kill By Numbers, but wished them good travels in Joe’s.

The following day, I gave my all on an early attempt of Kill By Numbers, which was a horrible failure with me unable to even lift myself off the first move. Defeated, I retreated to the Food Ranch once again – and opened my e-mails to find one from Spenser, the other half of The RV Project. It basically said, “Love your blog, wish you were still in town so we could invite you to our campfire.”

And I wrote back, “Well, as it happens, we’re still in town.” A few more correspondences were exchanged, and suddenly we found ourselves huddled around a fire with strangers who would become family overnight. We made plans to climb together the next day, and it wasn’t very long before Vikki and Spenser convinced us to just come back to Joe’s Valley after our trip to go climbing in Moab with a few old buddies. We awoke the next day with a reinvigorated passion for the valley, which was amplified by the great vibes we got from climbing with Spenser, Vikki, and their buddy Will.

Spenser climbing Save Yourself (V9) in Joe's Valley.Will works the beta on Eden (V9) in Joe's Valley.

I spent the day working Kelly’s Arete (V5) with Vikki and two other super strong gals while Niko and Spenser hopped around the boulders shooting photos. It was so inspiring to enjoy an all-ladies bouldering session – there’s something special about sharing beta, cheers, and promises of a send train.

One of my newfound lady friends crushes Kelly's Arete (V5) in Joe's Valley.

Finally, the moment came for me to send Kill By Numbers the following morning – and by some miracle of climbing, I crushed it on my first attempt. A celebration of PBR and “oreo dessert” from the Food Ranch quickly followed as I moved on to watch the fellas climb a few projects, including a never-climbed line scoped out by Steven Jeffery, who is working on a new Joe’s Valley guidebook.

Niko works the first moves on his still-unnamed first ascent of a V7.

Niko spent about an hour working out the beta for the first moves, which involves a strong, stretchy crank up to a sloping pocket from an overhanging ledge. He quickly solved the sequence, and eventually found himself on the tall bulge top-out. As he pushed his body upwards, he started uttering one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard him say while climbing:

Niko delicately manuevering the top-out of his V7 first ascent.

 

 

“Please don’t break,
please don’t break,
please don’t break.

 

 

I guess that’s the price you pay for snagging a first ascent. Fortunately, none of the sandy  he was pulling on broke, and Niko proudly claimed the first ascent of the problem, which he gave a V7 grade. He hasn’t given the problem an official name, but we’re toying with the idea of “Oreo Dessert” to pay homage to one of the Food Ranch’s finer delicacies.

After a few more campfires fueled by booze, a bout of nasty weather, and a dip in the local pool, Niko and I finally willed ourselves to leave our little Joe’s Valley home for a few days to go explore in Moab – but one thing is for sure: we’ll be back.

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